When the result board turned to the next page and showed her final result Haley Johnson could not help crying. To see that historic 21st place on the score board in Pokljuka, Slovenia after the women’s 15km individual today was a relief in many ways. Not only was it the best result for the US women this season, but it also qualified for the US Olympic Team. “I made it,” Johnson screamed, “I made it. Unbelievable!”
It was once again that famous last shot that did not hit the target. “I probably did not drink enough and I was sweating and couldn’t see that last target so I just shot somewhere’” Johnson explained.
Johnson’s ski time only ranked 58th, but her single miss was the key. In the long-format individual start races, each penalty adds a minute to an athlete’s time. Had Johnson shot clean, se would have placed 12th.
She left the shooting range in 16th place, not knowing where she stood in the field. “The team manager Bernd Eisenbichler doesn’t give me any splits as I am approaching the shooting range, because he doesn’t want to add to the pressure of the moment.”
On the last lap though, he finally told her the position. “I tried to go faster to stay up front, but I just couldn’t. I was empty and probably skied slower than the laps before!”
Her analysis was correct – her time for her last loop was over a minute slower than any of her three previous rounds, but that didn’t stop her from easily besting her previous best World Cup finish of 52nd. She also placed 23rd at the World Championships in Korea last year.
When she crossed the finish line, Johnson couldn’t stop shaking. She had given everything during the 15k for her career best. “It is nice to know that you gave everything and did not just end up in a 70th place or something like that. With that result it feels especially good to be so empty.”
Johnson was 3:41.8 minutes behind today’s winner and the current best biathlete in the world, Helena Jonsson of Sweden.
“I am very impressed with Haley’s race. We did know that she is able to finish in a good position but it was only during the last days that Haley really calmed down. She was confident of herself and her ability on the shooting range and what she showed today seemed just like a normal and perfect training race! It’s just amazing how she pulled that off”, head coach Per Nilsson expressed after the race.
“Haley put together a fantastic performance today hitting 19 of her 20 targets and finishing 21st in the WC. She has worked so hard this year and it’s really wonderful to see her have this breakthrough. She’s our first woman to make the qualification for the Olympic Team”, said USBA-executive director Max Cobb.
Lanny Barnes and Sara Studebaker finsihed 63rd and 67th respectively.
Megan Tandy led the Canadians in 35th with two penalties and Zina Kocher was 39th.
Johnson talks about her race:
Contributing Source: USBA